Sunday, December 04, 2011

Nanowrimo Now What?

Okay, so you survived! Or maybe I shouldn’t make any assumptions, there.

But for the sake of argument, let’s say you survived and now have a rough draft (maybe very, very, very rough draft) of about 50,000 words.

What next?

Well, first of all, did you write to “The End”? Because if not, then you may have survived, but you’re not done. You must get through to The End, no matter how rough it is (rough meaning the process AND the pages…). If you did not get to The End, I would strongly urge that you NOT take a break, no matter how tired you are (well, maybe a day). You can slow down your schedule, set a lower per-day word or page count, but do not stop. Write every day, or every other day if that’s your schedule, but get the sucker done.

You may end up throwing away most of what you write, but it is a really, really, really bad idea not to get all the way through a story. That is how most books, scripts and probably most all other things in life worth doing are abandoned.

Conversely, if you DID get all the way to “The End”, then definitely, take a break. As long a break as possible. You should keep to a writing schedule, start brainstorming the next project, maybe do some random collaging to see what images come up that might lead to something fantastic - but if you have a completed draft, then what you need right now is SPACE from it. You are going to need fresh eyes to do the read-through that is going to take you to the next level, and the only way for you to get those fresh eyes is to leave the story alone for a while.

I am tempted to jump write in and post the blog I am thinking about on a process for reading and revising, but I will resist, at least for today, so that you really absorb what I’m saying.

1. Keep going if you’re not done –

OR -

2. Take a good long break if you have a whole first draft, and start thinking about another project.

And in the meantime, I’d love to hear how you all who were Nanoing did.

Me? I had my usual Nano, which is to say I was working on multiple projects, one in a later draft so page counts were useless or impossible, and then the order of two of my contracted books got switched in the middle of the month so I ended up starting TWO first drafts of different projects this month (!!!) but I am MUCH happier with the new order one of those. But I did get a ton of editing done on my new crime thriller, and am loving the new paranormal thriller, and I got final edits for three e books done. And I survived that incredible So Cal windstorm, too. A good month, I'd say.

- Alex


Philip Steiner said...

Hey Alex,

I managed to write about 26,000 words of my NaNo novel. I started with a rough outline, employing a hybrid of your three act, eight sequence story structure technique and Larry Brooks's story engineering technique. I found both techniques complementary for outlining and plotting the basic story.

I want to finish the story, but I'm having second thoughts about my protagonist (a teenage hacker turned rookie FBI agent in the cyber crimes division), and I'm having a hard time bringing the "malevolent artificial intelligence" at the heart of the villain's intentions out onto the stage.

There's so much rework ahead for what I wrote during November that I feel like chucking it all and starting from scratch. Should I continue on to "The End," as you advise, or start over from the beginning, salvaging as much as I can from last month's efforts?

By the way, I devoured most of your blog after I discovered it, then bought and studied Screenwriting Tricks constantly during NaNoWriMo. Thanks for sharing your own hard-won experience and wisdom with us beginners.

All the best, Philip

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I haven't done NaNo, but I am writing the first draft to a new novel. Thanks for this, Alex. You've reinforced the right move next. BTW, thanks for all your help always. You are my hero.

Laura Libricz, Authoress said...

The one reason I got through the NaNo was this blog. Thank you so much for your encouragment! I planned the outline six weeks in advance, wrote my 50,000 words (and wrote The End!!!)and am leaving the whole thing to ferment (steep, if you're a tea drinker).

Anonymous said...

This was my first year in NaNo... and I did get to "The End." As far as a break - I can't. I just can't. I finished on the 15th - so after a few editing rounds, it's out for first round critiques. But this isn't my first novel.

But I am working on another project as well, while lots of other eyes read my MS.

Excellent advice though, because for my first few novels they needed chill time so that my eyes were fresh when I looked it over again.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hi Joylene! Glad to hear I said the right thing at the right time. Hope you have great holidays.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Laura, that's so sweet of you to say. HOWEVER you did it, fantastic - congratulations!

More to come here on rewriting, so I hope you stick around.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Well, Kim, I'd be the pot calling the kettle black if I came down on you for not taking a break!

But working on another project for a few weeks is a break from your just finished one, so that counts! Until you drop dead, of course... ;)

Stephen said...

Thank you for all of your great advice. Am done but my novel took a long walk on the dark side, and surprised me several times. It has child soldiers, cannibalism, mass starvation, and romance among other surprises.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hey Philip - sorry, your comment got sent to spam, just found it.

If you are an experienced writer (ie published) my advice would be different, but it sounds like you're new-ish, and so I'll say I don't think it's ever a good idea to go back and start revising before you finish. That's how most novels never get finished. Even if you were an accomplished novelist you could end up throwing out most of your first act. There's always the exception to the rule, but I'd say keep going.

If it's any help, I always feel like chucking it all and starting from scratch - at some point!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Stephen - a walk on the dark side with child soldiers, cannibalism, mass starvation, and romance sounds like just my kind of thing.

Congratulations for finishing!

Philip Steiner said...

Hi Alex, I was kinda wondering whether my comment got lost on somewhere on the interwebs.

Yes, I am very new to writing fiction. I'll take your sage advice and keep on writing.

All the best, Philip